Today I received an email from an employer, following my application for a job last week. There was something that struck me as odd (okay, actually, horribly wrong) about the email. Thought I'd see what others would do in a similar situation.
To get the full setting, you should know that I don't currently have work. I'm trained as an architect and have been working on my masters during the school year here in New Zealand. During the term I make money as a TA (or what we call tutor here), but our term ended at the end of November, and we don't have many offerings over the summer break. I'm in a position of either trying to find permanent full time work and putting my studies into a part time basis, or finding temporary work until February when school starts back up and I have teaching assignments again. Money is more than extremely tight. I have none at the moment. In fact I just got my power turned back on after it was turned off today. Thankfully my mother helped me out - very embarrassing at this point in my life. So, I need work. Important to keep in mind in this dilemma.
So last week when I saw a new job posting for a position at my level I was very excited to apply. Not only is it my level, but it's for one of the most prestigious architecture firms in the country, one which gets published internationally and can add a lot to one's work experience.
Today I received an email saying the following:
"We are preparing a long list of applicants for the position advertised and wondered if you could answer a few questions.
- Are you NZ registered?
- What is your post grad experience?
- What is your Archicad 14 experience?
- What is your Revit/Autodesk experience?
- What salary range are you expecting?
- What University did you graduate from?
- What is your age?"
Let's look at that list again.
- Professional registration status - totally relevant
- Work Experience - yep totally relevant
- Experience with a particular computer program - yep relevant
- Another computer program - again relevant
- Salary range - understandable
- University - relevant.
I have lived here for 5 years, but I have to admit I'm not always 100% of what the laws are regarding particular issues. I have seen people put their age on their CV, but coming from the US this was the biggest red flag I've ever seen. I first texted a friend of mine who is an HR manager just to find out what the law is in New Zealand, and after a while didn't hear back, so called our Labour Department and confirmed that age is protected from discrimination under our Human Rights Act, and that asking a candidates age is illegal, but that work culture has not quite caught up to where the US is. Shortly there after I received a text back from my friend saying "that is most certainly illegal!"
So I have confirmation of an illegal question being asked in a pre-interview screening questionnaire. I responded back with answers to all of the rest of the questions and on the age question stating "Consistent with someone with 12 years of professional experience. I'm not trying to be cagey, but I've always been informed this was a question that should be avoided due to possibility of discrimination."
That response was the more moderate response from what I really wanted to write, which was a reprimand at asking an illegal question. Most architecture firms are small (this one is less than 20 people) and so their business practices tend to be less than professional - that's not to excuse the practice, but more that the person may not be aware of the problem - partly because NZ culture tends to be a very go along to get along type of place. Confrontation, which is valued in American culture, is not an inherent cultural trait, so honest mistakes can be made. At the same time there are those who use this flexibility to get away with more than they should.
So the question is, what would you have done? What would you do now?